Is Do Not Track DOA?

Casey BartoHere’s something typical for Washington. Nearly 2 years after the industry/government/privacy advocates agreed to create a universal Do Not Track mechanism, it still has yet to see the light of day. What’s the problem? No one can agree on what “tracking” means.
In an effort to try and get somewhere in the endless Do Not Track debate, the W3C has decided that it’s putting its foot down. Two years is too long to have gone without at least a basic Do Not Track framework in place. They’ve decided on a base text to use for creating a mechanism. Great… All that’s left to do now is resolve the 25 major disagreements about that text, including what kind of data can be collected, how users’ information is stored… oh and, of course, the definition of tracking.

But wait, there’s more. Despite objections to the language by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), the W3C has announced that it will not entertain any more discussion on the language except for publishing and editing.

In response to the DAA’s objections, the W3C stated “The advertisers’ proposal muddied the already well-murked waters about what tracking would entail. Under the DAA proposal, advertisers would still be able to profile users and target advertisements to them — even if those users had turned on Do Not Track in their browsers…. And that fails to meet the widely understood meaning of Do Not Track, the W3C said,” according to CNN.

Let me get this straight: There is a “widely understood meaning” of Do Not Track, but no one can decide what tracking actually means? How is that even possible?

As for the official framework language, the W3C has announced that it will have the final proposal ready by the end of the month. (Exactly which month that will be and in which year remains uncertain.) This means that I may have more news for you at the end of this month, but based on the ways things have moved forward so far, I wouldn’t count on it.

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